Current road safety challenges for smart transport infrastructure development was the main topic of the Informal Meeting of Transport Ministers of EU Member States and EEA States that took place today (8.5.2014), at Zappeion Megaron, in Athens.
The Greek Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks, Michalis Chrysochoidis, chaired the Informal EU Transport Ministers Council. The President of the Hellenic Republic, Karolos Papoulias, honoured with his presence the Council, stressing thus the importance of improving road safety towards reaching the vision of zero road deaths. The Vice President and European Commissioner for Transport, Siim Kallas, European Commission officials and Ministers and Senior Officials of EU and EEA Member States, responsible for transport attended the Council.
In his opening speech, the Greek Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks, Michalis Chrisochoidis, summarised the objectives of the meeting: "Our ambition is, through the current informal meeting of the Ministers of Transport of the European Union, to contribute to a transition from words to actions, to be able to outline and define a new framework, an updated set of strategic conclusions that will feed into policies and practices for an effective approach to our common goals in improving road safety."
The French Minister of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Frederic Cuivillier, presented the results of the European Conference on Road Transport of Goods: Harmonisation of European Social Policy. The same topic has been the main discussion topic in the ministerial working lunch, during which the Ministers expressed the positions of their countries on the subject.
Simon Grima, Chairman of CEDR (Conference of European Directors of Roads) and Steve Philips, General Secretary of CEDR, presented the five main short- , medium- and long-term measures to improve road safety on European roads (awareness campaigns, traffic calming and speed management, institutional prerequisites, road safety audit and management of high risk sites). “Road users, when asked”, said the CEDR representatives, “recommended as the best road safety measures the maintenance and expansion of road infrastructure, better lighting and expansion of signaling.”
Erik Jonnaert, Secretary General of ACEA (European Automotive Vehicle Manufacturers Association), emphasized the need for more efforts in order to improve, on one hand, the driving behaviour and, on the other, road infrastructure, optimally using the possibilities that the new technologies give us.
Summing up the political dialogue, the Greek Deputy Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks, Michalis Papadopoulos, recalled that improving road safety is a targeted action performed by many stakeholders, of both the public and private sector, various levels of government, and politicians - scientists - technocrats - citizens. He referred to the so-called "forgiving" infrastructure, which includes proper design of road networks, intelligent transport systems (ITS) and cooperative systems of road infrastructure, vehicle and driver, an infrastructure that can prevent accidents, injuries and deaths.
Papadopoulos, stressed the systematic work of the Greek Presidency on the following dossiers/topics: development of the e-Call interoperable system, weights and dimensions of vehicles, noise in air transport, passenger rights, Shift2Rail Regulation, 4th pillar railway technical package. In horizontal issues, the completion of the Directive on infrastructure development of alternative fuels has been an important milestone, while, in inland waterway, a small –but important in its field– instrument has been completed, which will contribute to a better exploitation of resources on the EU fleet capacity.
At the press conference, the Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks, Michalis Chrisochoidis, presented the conclusions of the Informal Council of EU Transport Ministers, pointing out that: "In order to achieve what was discussed during the Informal Council of EU Transport Ministers, it is necessary to implement appropriate mechanisms. I am primarily referring to financial tools. In any case, we need to think towards two directions: 1) how the use of available resources for our purposes will be optimized, and 2) if these resources are sufficient and how to fill existing gaps using these resources."
The Informal Council of EU Transport Ministers concluded with the Ceremony of the European Road Safety Award.